Friday, January 13, 2006

Burrard Bridge Bike Lane Myths

Vancouver's new mayor and council has reversed the previous council's decision about the burrard bridge bike lane trial. I am finding that there are still a lot of myths out there about the bike lane trial:

The electorate has spoken in opposition to the bike lane trials by electing the NPA.

The only poll I saw showed that 50% of the population supported the lane reallocation trial. The other 50% was divided among those that were neutral or opposed the lane reallocation. So, only a minority opposed the bike lane reallocation. And even among those that opposed it I found many were confused about basic facts and would change their mind when given all the facts.

Myth: The bike land trial is only supported by a “radical bike lobby.”

The bike lane reallocation plan was supported by a board coalition that included:
- the mainstream cycling groups in Vancouver
- transportation policy groups that advocate for public transportation
- one the most famous and respected urban planners in the world (a person even NPA mayor Sam Sullivan called “a hero”)
- Vancouver's Heritage Preservation Society (definitely no “radical bike lobbyists” here)
- the West End residents association (representing hundreds of people who are certainly not all “radical bike lobbyists”) - which has been tirelessly advocating for this change for over a decade
- environmental groups who do not directly advocate for cycling
- and others.....

Myth: Cyclists make up only 3% of commuters.

According to the GVRD Regional Travel Survey (2000), 7% of the total trips in Vancouver are made by bike and 30% of people travel by bike occasionally. The occasional cyclists stated that having "dedicated bicycle lanes on major roads and bridges" would most likely induce an increase in bicycle commuters.

Across the GVRD, walking and cycling trips increased by 29% between 1994 and 1999. More people now move around downtown Vancouver by foot or bicycle than by car. Walking and cycling trips increased from about 70,000 trips a day in 1994, to about 108,500 trips – or 32% of all trips. Auto trips account for about 30% of downtown travel, and public transit about 40%.

Myth: The current infrastructure is fine.

Five years ago, a cyclist was seriously injured and suffered permanent injuries after being knocked off her bicycle by a pedestrian and hit by a van.

The existing sidewalk is 2.8 metres wide. Only half of that is designated for bikes. The standard for cycling facilities that carry the number of cyclists the Burrard Bridge carries is 3.7 metres.

Myth: The 1996 bike lane trial was a disaster.

City staff admitted after the trial that they did not properly prepare the public for the trial. They did not give advance warning and did not put up proper signs approaching the bridge. This did result in chaos for the first couple of days, but only the first couple of days.

During the trial the number of cyclists using the bridge increased dramatically (39%) while the car traffic literally disappeared. There was a decrease of 8800 car occupants (9% decrease).

Delays were reduced from 20 minutes early in the week to a few minutes after only 5 days If the trial had been allowed to continue those delays may have decreased even further.